How the Ugandan opposition lost the 2016 election victory

Posted: August 1, 2015 in Ugandan things

The Ugandan opposition might have lost 2016 elections already. Ugandan opposition may not catch up with NRM for 2016 showdown. Opposition seems disorganised and yet there is not much time left to 2016 general elections. Opposition seems to have failed to critically assess their might and opportunities available to leverage on during the electoral process to win the 2016 elections.
The opposition buried themselves alive by starting the talk about possible boycott of 2016 elections if some reforms are not implemented. The opposition also went against the National identity card project, and Voter register update exercise. Some of their Supporters may have obviously not embraced the exercises. The fact is that the old register was abandoned. Those who registered for the National identity card were the ones considered and those who registered a fresh. NRM was busy engaging members and reminding them of the deadline. Uganda Electoral commission rolled out a general voter register update exercise in April this year. Opposition were simply not actively involved in the voter register update exercise. This would be the time for the opposition to help draw more supporters and encourage them to participate in the exercise. The opposition questioned the voter register of the Electoral commission. The call on masses to register or update their details was mainly done by civil society, NRM and the Electoral commission. This happened as some sections of the opposition threatened to boycott 2016 elections if their desired reforms are not out. It is possible the would-be voters gave up on the exercise.
There is a growing evidence of low confidence in electoral processes by Ugandan opposition as reported by media. Registration as opposed to boycott would have counted. The push for voter support and registration by opposition political parties explains the success in the recent Nigerian presidential elections. Rallying more eligible voters especially the urban corporate to register by opposition parties may have had the only silver bullet to their victory in 2016 elections.
An updated voter register translates into a credible Electoral commission which result in a free and fair electoral process. Every voter determines outcomes of elections. Elections are just like lottery, you can not expect a jackpot without participation. Change is possible with voting. Increasingly, we have seen incumbents losing in Africa which is not common with the latest example being former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan who lost to opposition. Voter register update exercise addresses barriers to voting. For example the challenge of lack of transportation is solved by eligible voters choosing their preferred voting stations. Everyone has a right to vote but they have to do what it takes. You may have the right to vote but the decision cannot be exercised. You do not want to turn up on election day and you are told you can not vote because your polling station is miles away or because your details were never verified.
The greatest bottleneck to opposition victory in 2016 will be strategy and how it will be implemented? Strategy enables you to identify objectives and how to achieve the specific objectives. However, Opposition seems to shift goal posts every now and day. One day they are saying they will participate in elections, the following day someone is talking about boycott. Obviously this shows lack of seriousness on the side of opposition parties.
Opposition agendas still lack relevance to the average Ugandan. Why insist on electoral reforms when corruption would be a soft target to decampaign NRM. Government does not have many weaknesses with elections as opposed to service delivery. What if electoral reforms are effected overnight? What will opposition be left with? Some of the relevant issues of reform opposition should be focusing on is poor service delivery .At least a normal Ugandan will relate with that not electoral reforms. Walk to work was successful because it was emotionally appealing to high standards of living as a result of inflation.
Most of the challenges of opposition have not been addressed as they should have. For example Crowd funding. Lack of funds could be solved through ‘Ettoffaali’ project of sorts. They can raise money to mobilise. Nationwide opposition membership drives if well managed can raise revenue from member cards and sale of party branded items. Opposition continues to focus all their energy on electoral commission reform than preparing for 2016 Campaigns.
The opposition has failed on Media relations which would help in mobilising support and keeping up the momentum. Abraham Lincoln once said “What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself”. We all know that social media can drive awareness quickly. There is still inadequate media attention. Opposition should explore more activities that could get them media coverage at least on a daily. Social media presence of the Uganda opposition leaves a lot to be desired.
The opposition rushed to unveil a coalition in Kampala recently. The coalition called Democratic Alliance, brings together opposition parties, individuals, pressure groups , civil society groups, and religious groups. The Coalition membership is so diverse that there will be many irreconcilable differences that may shock it before the elections. Most of the members of the alliance like UPC are yet to resolve internal fights. Member groups are not at the same level of followers and funding. How will the leadership be shared without sidelining the less influential groups? Religious perspective of political engagement may not welcome demonstrations. Opposition fails to identify and stick to the best presidential Candidate. Dr. Besigye is still a famous figure of Ugandan opposition and should remain as a bet. They signed a protocol early enough even before NRM got all their flag bearers. The Alliance members agreed to field joint candidates for selected electoral positions. The signed agreement protocol is great on paper but hard to implement.
Where on earth has opposition delivered democracy by boycotting elections? The coalition was launched and it has since gone quiet. Ugandan Media is no longer focusing on the coalition because they seem to have launched without actual activity plans. Hope the opposition takes lessons from the past seriously early enough.
Ivan .N.Baliboola
PR and organizational diagnosis specialist


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s